Facilities issue is a bridge that school district must cross

Linda Madsen
Guest Columnist

As many of you know, every five years or so our district undertakes the job of creating a new strategic plan that helps guide us for the next half-decade. This past summer, a committee made up of parents, students, community members, teachers and other district created a new strategic plan that will run from the 2012-2013 school year until the 2017-2018 school year.

One component of this new strategic plan was the development of a plan to address our district’s infrastructure needs, including an evaluation of our current building facilities. To do this, we are asking for community support in the form of volunteers to help us with this evaluation process.

In short, this process is about examining the current status of our facilities, deciding what the community wants the facilities to be like and then determining how to bridge the gap between the two.

In any community, the condition of its school system is a direct reflection on the local residents’ commitment to the education of the children of that community. The residents and taxpayers of Forest Lake and its surrounding communities are responsible for deciding what kind of school system they want to have. So right now, the opportunity is available for these residents to take part in the process of deciding what changes, upgrades or renovations our buildings and facilities should have in order to provide our children with the best possible education.

A Committee Task Force is being created to provide input to the School Board about the facilities in our district and what potentially may be needed. The first meeting of this task force is Monday, Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. Several other meetings are planned, as well as three opportunities for members of the task force to personally travel to the buildings in our district to take a look at the overall conditions in those buildings.

The meeting dates are planned for: Nov. 12, Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Jan. 14. Other meetings may be scheduled as need. The dates for the building tours are on three Saturdays – Oct. 27, Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 – and they are scheduled to run from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. We are asking committee members to attend all of these tours if possible.

In addition to the new information we are hoping to gather through these meetings and building tours, we also will be re-examining the gap analysis study that our district conducted in 2009 and 2010. We believe that much of the data and information generated from that study is still valid and will help us gain a broader perspective and provide some idea of the costs associated with any changes that the task force believes is warranted.

Once this process is completed, the committee will make recommendations to the school board that reflect their thoughts and ideas regarding the needs of the school district.

Anyone interested in participating on this committee, even if they cannot attend the very first meeting, should let us know at the district office. To volunteer for the task force, contact Diane Borle at (651) 982-8104 or [email protected]

I’d like to personally thank the people who helped us in the development of our new strategic plan. In addition to the facilities component, there are many other important areas that the strategic plan covers. Our school board and district staff will be using this entire document to guide our work for the next five years.

It is only through this kind of dedicated effort by members of our community that these important issues can be examined and fairly evaluated, and that our school board can truly understand what our community wants our district to become.

Linda Madsen is superintendent of schools in ISD 831.